HER Exclusive: We've made the list and checked it twice. Our favorite festivities to ring in the holiday season.


As the costumes are put away and the remaining Halloween candy is savored, sharpen that carving knife, it’s beginning to look a lot like… the holiday season! As if we didn’t have our own internal timers going off, earlier and earlier, retailers are catapulting us toward the busyness, the planning, and of course, the shopping.

We say, don’t let this pressure take you away from all the excitement and wonder of this special time of year! You have permission to enjoy. So we’ve made you a list, checked it twice. We’ve stuffed it full of fun festivities, and a side of holiday magic for you to enjoy this holiday season! From Northern Kentucky or Northern Ohio, events like the classic A Christmas Story House in Cleveland, Clifton’s Lights at the Clifton Mill and Columbus’ Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens’ Merry and Bright will not disappoint. Here are several more can’t-miss holiday hits for you and yours!

Cincinnati / Northern Ky.

BB Riverboats Holiday Brunch Cruise
Date & Time: Nov. 3-17, boards at 11 a.m.
Location: BB Riverboats 101 Riverboat Row, Newport, KY 41071

Take the waterfront route this holiday season and enjoy a riverboat ride, complete with Santa serenading you with songs of the season. This two-hour cruise is perfect for a new family tradition.

PNC Festival of Lights

Date & Time: Nov. 18-Jan. 1
Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden
A classic crowd pleaser, it’s the annual Festival of Lights at the zoo, featuring nearly two million LED lights! Children and adults will enjoy Madcap Puppets in black-light, New Wild Lights Show on Swan Lake, train rides and more! 

Light Up the Levee’s Grand Illumination

Date & Time: Nov. 21, 5 - 7:30 p.m.

Location: Newport on the Levee - 1 Levee Way, Newport, KY 41071

This event shines bright not only for you, but also a family in need! Music, treats, hot cocoa and a visit from Santa will delight the senses, and an honoring family will win airline vouchers to visit loved ones. It’s sure to warm your heart! Nominate a family throughout November. Learn more. 

Newport on the Levee Polar Express Pajama Party

Date & Time: Dec. 9 & 10; doors open at 4:15 p.m., movie starts at 5 p.m.
Location: Newport on the Levee - former IMAX Theater next to Brio Tuscan Grille

Children and adults alike are invited on this magical train ride, complete with hot cocoa, cookies and popcorn. Each guest will receive a special gift and will be invited to ride the Newport Express train.Tickets sell out quickly -- watch for tickets mid-November. Learn more.


Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival

Date & Time: Nov. 17-Jan. 7
Location: Ohio Expo Center & State Fairgrounds

Chinese culture and the season of lights come together in this spectacular display of “larger-than-life” illumination. Chinese artisans from across China show off their handiwork, where there will also be nightly performances, crafts for purchase and Chinese fare. Learn more.

Delaware Fantasy of Lights

Date & Time: December: Mondays-Thursdays 5:30-9:30 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays 5:30-10:30 p.m.
Location: Alum Creek State Park, Delaware, Ohio
Pile in and enjoy 132 light displays featuring more than one million lights. Santa will welcome you in after the drive-through tour, with hot cocoa and cookies, sure to delight your whole carload!

Jack Hanna’s Home for the Holidays

Date & Time: Dec. 9
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
The zoo has more on display than
Wildlights (although you should surely check them out!) This season, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium gives a gift to all those who attend Dec. 9. Each person who brings an item from their wish list will receive free admission, complete with entry to Jungle Jack Hanna’s three live shows including animal friends, of course! Learn more.

Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith

Date & Time: Dec. 15, 7:30 p.m.

Location: Nationwide Arena

Accompanied by Jordan Smith, Season 9 winner of NBC’s “The Voice,” multi-platinum GRAMMY winners Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith will ring in the holidays with all their Christmas hits. Enjoy the sounds of a full symphony orchestra, and leave ready to celebrate the season. Learn more.

Cleveland / Akron

Historic Kirtland Nativity Exhibit

Date & Time: December Mondays-Saturdays 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sundays 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m.
Location: Historic Kirtland Village at 7800 Kirtland-Chardon Road, Kirtland, Ohio
Cultures combine at Christmas in this unique display, featuring 620 nativity crèches, thousands of lights, and sacred Christmas music. An American Bus Association “Top 100 Events in North America,” this collection is a special way to celebrate the Christmas season. Kids will enjoy the Children’s Room, with child-friendly nativities, costumes, and “I spy” activity.

Holiday Tree Festival at Akron Children's Hospital

Date & Time: Nov. 18-23, various times
Location: John S. Knight Center, Akron, OH
More than 200 holiday trees are on display, fully decorated for the season. Wreaths, miniature trees and other holiday creations will be featured, with local entertainment setting the festive atmosphere. Nearly 85,000 strings of lights will brighten spirits, and attendees will have the chance to purchase items to support patient care programs, education and research at Akron Children’s Hospital. Learn more.

Christkindl Markt - Juried Fine Arts and Crafts Show

Date & Time: Nov. 11 & 12, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Nov. 13, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Location: Cultural Center for the Arts / Canton Museum of Art
Kick off your holiday shopping at the 44th annual Christkindl Markt in Canton, where you can peruse handmade works and crafts including ceramics, jewelry, glass, paintings, photography and more. There is something for everyone at this fundraising event sponsored by Canton Fine Arts Associates, supporting Canton Museum of Art. Learn more.


Dayton Holiday Festival

Date & Time: Nov. 24, 4-9 p.m.

Location: Courthouse Square, Third and Main Streets

Enjoy an evening of lights with the Grande Illumination tree lighting featuring more than 100,000 colored lights. Stick around for the annual Children’s Parade through downtown with seasonal floats, horses, drill teams, bands and holiday treats! This is an event the whole family can enjoy together and a wonderful way to kick start your holiday season.